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Pontrelli v. Monavie, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 19, 2014

LISA PONTRELLI, in her individual Docket capacity and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MONAVIE, INC., MONAVIE, LLC., and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.

This is a putative class action based on allegations of consumer fraud. Plaintiff Lisa Pontrelli filed the First Amended Complaint ("FAC") individually and on behalf of a putative class of people who purchased MonaVie juice products from 2007 to present. Plaintiff principally alleges that Defendants falsely advertise their products' health benefits with the intent that consumers will rely upon such misrepresentations. (FAC at ¶ 70). Defendants MonaVie, Inc. and MonaVie, LLC filed this motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff opposed. There was no oral argument. L. Civ. R. 78.1(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

Named Defendants are MonaVie, Inc. and MonaVie, LLC (collectively "MonaVie"). Defendant MonaVie, Inc. is a Utah corporation with its principal place of business in South Jordan, Utah. (FAC at ¶ 10). MonaVie, Inc. is in the business of manufacturing, packaging, advertising, selling, and distributing MonaVie Products[1] and has been so engaged at all times relevant to the allegations contained in the FAC. ( Id. ). Defendant MonaVie, LLC is a limited liability company organized under the laws of the state of Delaware, having its principal place of business in South Jordan, Utah. (FAC at ¶ 11). MonaVie, LLC manufactures, distributes, packages, and advertises MonaVie Products. (FAC at ¶ 11). MonaVie, LLC, directly and through its agents, has substantial contacts with and receives substantial benefits and income from and through New Jersey. (FAC at ¶ 11). The FAC alleges that consumers paid wrongfully inflated prices due to Defendants' pervasive pattern of false and deceptive advertising of the contents, properties, and health benefits of the MonaVie Products. (FAC at ¶ 1).

Plaintiff is a New Jersey resident who purchased MonaVie Products for personal use during the Class Period. (FAC at ¶ 9). Plaintiff relied upon advertisements and other promotional materials containing the misrepresentations alleged in the FAC. ( Id. ). Plaintiff did not receive the advertised benefits of MonaVie and would not have purchased MonaVie if she had known that the Defendants' representations were false. ( Id. ).

A. The MonaVie Juice Products

MonaVie Products are juices containing açai berry and a combination of other fruits such as pomegranates, grapes, and blueberries. (FAC at ¶¶ 21-22). The MonaVie Prodcuts are sold in 25-ounce bottles that have the shape commonly associated with a wine bottle and are priced beginning at approximately $40 per bottle. (FAC at ¶ 23).

B. Advertised Health Benefits of MonaVie Products

The MonaVie brochure attached to the FAC states that the "Crown Jewel in the MonaVie Blend" is the açai berry, which the brochure claims is the "fruit of an Amazonian palm tree." (FAC, Exhibit A). The FAC quotes the University of Florida as saying açai "is considered one of the richest fruit sources of antioxidants." ( Id. ). The brochure claims that açai can, among other things, prevent blood clots and arteriosclerosis, promote better circulation, prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease, and improve mental focus, stamina, digestion, sleep, and sexual function. ( Id. ). The brochure goes on to list innumerable curative and preventative qualities of 17 other fruits contained in MonaVie Products, including aronia, nashi pear, camu camu, wolfberry, bilberry, acerola cherry, and lychee. ( Id. ).

The brochure contains testimonials that make incredible claims about the curative properties of MonaVie. One testimonial states, "after giving my 5-yearold daughter two ounces a day of the Açai Original Blend... she was much more calm and relaxed." Another states, "Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis... the Açai Active Blend is the first product EVER that has totally amazed me... before I had finished the first bottle my pain was totally gone in those joints that had been so bad." A third states, "I underwent major surgery to repair a completely crushed pelvis... When the Açai Blend became available in January 2005, I stopped all my medications and replaced them with Açai Active Blend... before three weeks had gone by all of my pain had vanished."

The FAC alleges that Defendants posted a deceptive video on www.youtube.com. (FAC at ¶ 34). On this video, Dr. Lou Niles, whom the FAC alleges is not really an MD, tells an audience member that MonaVie can ease cancer pain and even reverse cancer in a patient with more than 90 days of life left. (FAC at ¶ 34). The FAC alleges that this video is one example of the Defendants recruiting "medical experts" to offer vague, misleading and/or false testimony about the health benefits attributable to the MonaVie Products. (FAC at ¶ 33).

The FAC alleges that the Defendants do not merely claim that the MonaVie Products help cure cancer but can provide many other medical benefits, which are listed on www.monavieforum.net. (FAC at ¶ 35). These include extending life, managing diabetes, reliving headaches and dizziness, and preventing morning sickness. ( Id. ).

C. MonaVie's Knowledge About Falsity of Advertised Health Benefits

Plaintiff alleges that Defendants were aware that MonaVie Products did not provide the health benefits purported in their advertising. MonaVie's chief science officer, Ralph Carson, who purportedly created the juice, cautioned that the drink was "expensive flavored water." (FAC at ¶ 41). Carson stated, "Any claims made are purely hypothetical, unsubstantiated and, quite frankly, bogus." (FAC at ¶ 41). Defendants allegedly know that they advertised health properties of the MonaVie Products that have not been supported medically. (FAC at ¶¶ 43-45). In addition, MonaVie admits that its products do not cure, prevent, or mitigate a long list of diseases. (FAC at ¶ 43). Dallin Larsen, MonaVie's CEO and co-founder, admitted that MonaVie's products do not cure any diseases. ( Id. ).

D. Plaintiff's Purchase of MonaVie Products

Prior to purchasing the MonaVie Products, Plaintiff saw, heard, and relied upon Defendants' advertisements, representations, and statements about the alleged health benefits of drinking MonaVie Products. (FAC at ¶ 54). The FAC alleges that consumers are willing to pay an inflated price for MonaVie Products due to the advertised health benefits. (FAC at ¶¶ 1, 35-38). Plaintiff used MonaVie Products and did not experience any of the advertised benefits. (FAC at ¶ 55). The FAC alleges that Plaintiff suffered ascertainable loss as a result of ...


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